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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • galling insects;
  • latitudinal gradients;
  • local species richness;
  • scleromorphic vegetation

Abstract. We evaluate a three-part hypothesis explaining why gall-inducing insect species richness is so high in scleromorphic vegetation: (1) persistence of low nutrient status scleromorphic leaves facilitates the galling habit in warm temperate latitudes; (2) favourable colonization sites for gallers result from reduced hygrothermal stress, high phenolics in the outer cortex of the gall, and reduced carnivore and fungal attack in the gall; and (3) in more mesic sites, mortality is high due to carnivore attack and invasion of galls by fungi. Over 280 samples of local species of galling herbivorous insects from fourteen countries on all continents except Antarctica revealed a strong pattern of highest richness in warm temperate latitudes, or their altitudinal equivalents. The peak of galling species richness on the latitudinal gradient from the equator into the Arctic was between 25 to 38° N or S. Galling species were particularly diverse in sclerophyllous vegetation, which commonly had greater than twelve species per local sample. In mesic, non-sclerophyllous vegetation types the number of galling species was lower with twelve or fewer species present. Many sites in sclerophyllous vegetation supported between thirteen and forty-six galling species locally, including campina islands in Amazonia, cerrado savanna in central Brazil, the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico, shrubland in Israel, fynbos in South Africa and coastal scleromorphic vegetation in Australia. At the same latitude, or its elevational equivalent, galling species richness was significantly higher in relatively xeric sites when compared to riparian or otherwise mesic habitats, even when scleromorphic vegetation dominated the mesic sites. The results were consistent with the hypothesis and extend to a more general level the patterns and predictions on the biogeography of gall-inducing insects.